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Toyota Sienna Maintenance and Repair (2003 earlier)



  • rward99rward99 Posts: 185
    The redesigned Sienna will be out in January, when production starts at the Princeton plant. People that have seen it tell me that the front looks like a Lexus RX300 and the back looks like the Odyssey. It will have All Wheel Drive, but I don't know if that is standard or optional. Someone in here mentioned that they will continue to make the smaller version as well, but I haven't heard anything to that effect.

    Until January they will continue to make the regular version at Georgetown.
  • deg856deg856 Posts: 120
    At 11,500 miles, our '01 XLE (bought in March, 01) has been trouble free except for the following minor problems:
    1) Intermittent left rear speaker hissing.
    2) Very intermittent left power door button (on the B pillar) apparent contact problem - we hear some clicking but the door does not close. Key fob, front dash button, or pulling on the door activates the door with no problem.
    3) About three weeks ago, left power door would click but refuses to close over a two-day period. Manually pulling the door forward resulted in the door reversing back to the fully opened position. We turned off the power to the door and used it manually. Finally, I tried closing the door half way with the power off, then switched the power back on. The circuits seemed to have reset itself somehow and we have not experienced further problems since.

    The dealer checked out the van but could not duplicate, nor find the cause of, the problems above. Again, I consider these problems minor and I'm not too worried about them at this point.

    The drive train has been extremely smooth and quiet; it's always been fed a 87 Octane diet with no problem. The van tracks straight at any speed (well, I haven't gone above 85 mph yet) on all road surfaces. The van is rattle free, and it is in excellent overall mechanical condition. Obviously the vast majority of the owners have similar trouble free experiences. I'm writing this to point out that things like abrupt shifts, unusual noises and vibrations, abnormal tire wear, excessive rattles, squealing brakes, engine knocking and any number of things that you don't expect to happen to a properly maintained late model vehicle, are NOT NORMAL. While Toyota makes excellent vehicles, the law of probability is that some of them will have problems. It is totally beyond me why in those instances where a customer experiences mechanical problems with a late model vehicle, the dealer, and Toyota, would not resolve the problem to the customer's satisfaction 100%. Why would Toyota want to save a few dollars and risk turning off any number of customers for life, and have this small number of dissatisfied customers bad mouth Toyota every chance they get? It disgusts me to read about hapless owners being told by dealers that their mechanical problems are "normal", when they clearly are not to any reasonable person. "dardson1" is one example, and I feel many on this forum have been too harsh on him. Last March I read his review on the new '01 XLE he bought, just before we bought ours. The guy was obviously very happy with the new purchase at the time. Well, we've all read a lot about the many problems that he had since until he finally sold the XLE at a big loss recently. We can argue about the severity of the problems he experienced (seems like mostly squeaks and rattles), but would you trade your no-squeak/rattle Sienna for his? The differences between his ownership experience and mine are night and day. Instead of criticizing dardson1 for griping excessively, a better question to ask is why his dealer, and Toyota as a company, didn't take care of this customer.

    San Jose, CA
  • deg856deg856 Posts: 120
    They (Toyota) just can't win. When they did not respond to the accusation of sludge by design, people say they were stone-walling. When they opened the channel of communication to allow people an easy way to submit complaints for review, people say they were admitting guilt. Either way they are wrong, or are they? Why are all these simple mind people jumping to conclusions so easily? If someone accuses me of stealing his car and I just ignore him, does that mean that I'm stone-walling the guy? If I finally got tired of hearing about it and ask him to prove it, does that mean I'm admitting guilt?

    Everyone agrees that oil degrades gradually, and it just doesn't turn into sludge suddenly. As far as checking for signs of sludge, there's the dipstick. Check it regularly (maybe every 1000 miles, or 500 miles, or during each fill-up, whatever it takes to make you feel good) and you'd see whether the oil is dirty or not. If it's not, you're fine. If it's dirty, change it. What's so hard about that?

    San Jose, CA
  • tomlhtomlh Posts: 8
    In my opinion Toyota is caving in to the unreasonable demonds of people who are trying to get Toyota to pay for there own negligence. But I suppose that this proves that the Charlene Blakes of the world can get their way if they whine long enough and make enough noise on the internet. Please read the statement before you think there really is a problem. They have stated, and I believe them, that not one of these small number of vehicals have any proof of proper maintenence. At we have asked this women for proof, names of dealers etc and only get more accusations and yet no proof. I think this shows Toyota's commitment to customer satisfaction, but I hope this doesn't encourage others to flood the internet when they have problems that are their own doing.
  • jj35jj35 Posts: 283
    I am one of at least 3,400 people (Toyota admits that they have received complaints from that many) who developed engine sludge in my Toyota. I own a 2000 Sienna that was identified as having sludge at 17,000 miles despite oil changes within the range recommended in my manual. My signs of engine sludge were as follows:

    Oil light on dashboard illuminated very briefly ONE TIME at around 16,000 miles.

    Noticed smoke billowing from exhaust on cold starts beginning several days after light illuminated.

    I could see sludge on oil cap - the sludge consisted of hard black gobs of oil. (of course, never having heard of sludge, I did not know what this was at the time).

    Noticed sudden high consumption of oil (used over two quarts in a 400 mile trip).

    I "fortunately" caught my sludge early and was charged "only" $3,300 for dismantling the engine, cleaning out the sludge, and putting it all back together again. About two-thirds of the cost was labor. I have heard of other repair estimates as high as $8,500, probably because of engine damage.

    Here is a link to a news article that was written about sludge in Toyotas.

  • jj35jj35 Posts: 283
    Just heard about another Toyota Sludge article. This one the LA Times and a little one-sided (Toyota's side only):

  • Does anyone know if there have there been any cases of this in the 2002 model or have they since made some technical corrections? We bought a Sienna in November, changed the oil and filter(myslef) at 5,000. Now wondering If I better start having the dealer do it!

  • davemmdavemm Posts: 33
    We also have a 2002 (Nov) Sienna.

    I'll be changing the oil at 3000mi. and having the dealer do it so that it's on their records as well as mine. I am currently debating using Moboil-1. My just stick to dino oil at 3K and trade in the van in 3yrs.
  • According to the LA time article listed above, the "recommended schedule of oil changes every 7,500 miles or six months, whichever comes first, under normal driving conditions and at 5,000 miles or every four months under severe driving conditions."

    Seems like a very frequent oil change protocol, but I've not yet purchased a minivan. In particular, the "every 4 to 6 months" seems frequent. So, if I buy a toyota and put low mileage on it but drive under "severe" driving conidtions (whatever that is), I still have to change my oil every 4 months! Is this typical for minivans?
  • davemmdavemm Posts: 33
    I live in the northeast. Here we have cold temps, damp weather, Hot days in summer, etc. This all takes a toll on oil. I have always changed my oil in all vehicles at 3000 miles with dino oil. If I used synt I'd change at 5000 miles. So I'd say 4 times a year is normal.
  • Would you change the oil 4 times a year even if the mileage was low?

    Also, if a sludge problem develops, is there a problem with not having had your oil changed by Toyota?
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    How long have you been driving? Four to six months seems excessive? The rule used to be 3 months or 3000 miles. I personally still follow this old adage and I lease my truck. Time is nearly as big a killer as actual use on oil.
  • jeproxjeprox Posts: 466
    can someone described the look, feel/texture of sludge?

    i changed my oil yesterday and i took a peek down the hole where you fill up oil. i saw this black deposit that kinda' look like wet charcoal. i scraped it and it did come off and feels like when you mash your charcoal and wet it - black and yucky!

    i dont have any blue smoke or any problems with my sienna. i currently have about 53,000kms on it. i'm just curious to know what sludge looks/feels like.

  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    To really tell, you need to remove your valve cover. What you are describing is sludge, but this is common around the fill cap. Moisture can accumulate here and doesn't necessarily mean you have engine sludge.
  • jeproxjeprox Posts: 466
    thanks for the info.

    i've seen pics at the dealer and it looks like mud so i wasn't sure if i have it or not.

    i don't use any oil and no puff of blue smoke so i dont think i need worry (i hope). i change my oil regularly at every 5000kms. my manual calls for oil change every 6000kms. my sienna is a 1999 model and my brother's is a 2000 model but his manual calls for oil change every 8000kms. Exact same engine, dont understand why the difference in mileage for oil change.

    i change oil every 5000kms. for every car i've owned - no sludge problems.
  • jeproxjeprox Posts: 466
    i switched back to all-season tires (from snows) last sat. and took off the rear brake drums. the amount of brake dust was just unbelieveable! i used my compressor to blow out the dust. i do this twice a year and it gets rid of that brake squeal.

    simple job to do and takes no longer than an hour for both the rear drums and front disc. i recommend this maintenance be done at least 2x a year. just my $0.02.
  • Here's another one for your enjoyment. Looks like the customers are winning the battle with sludge.

  • You ask how long I've been driving. Am I to take offense at that statement? Forgive me if I am misinterpreting, but I was simply asking for more information as someone who has not owned a Toyota.

    I have been driving for 22 years, but obviously don't have the expertise that you have as someone in the business. My prior car was a diesel (which I kept for over 16 years and changed oil (as recommended by the dealer) every 5000 miles. My current car also is not a Toyota, so perhaps that's the discrepancy: its maintenance schedule does not require oil changes that frequently. It uses service lights to notify you when to change oil and, so far, has required changes only once a year. The manual also states only that "Oil should be changed at least every 2 years." Perhaps because it uses synthetic oil, could that be why?

    I guess I was just wondering if low mileage driving required less frequent oil changes. Seems like it doesn't. I didn't realize that the Sienna requires oil changes at this interval. I'm fine with that, and I would definitely take care of a Sienna as recommended by the manufacturer. I am seriously considering buying a Sienna, but my nearest Toyota dealer is far away and this would be a bit of deterrent to buying a Toyota versus another model with dealers close by.
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    I didn't intend for you to take offense to my question. It was an honest question. I was a bit surprised that you thought two oil changes a year was excessive. I've noticed that younger drivers often don't realize what is involved in maintaining a car and thought you may fall into that category.

    From your description, I assume you're driving a Mercedes. The Mercedes has some kind of oil analyzer that keeps you safe. Most cars don't have this and people are FAR better off to err on the side of more frequent oil changes. Oil is cheap.
  • I did not think 2 changes a year was excessive. I was commenting on the "every 4 months in the setting of low mileage" which seemed frequent. From what you say, though, it's "time" more than "mileage." That's good to know.

    So, if I buy a Sienna and drive it only 2,000 miles every 4 months but live in a harsh climate, what is the recommendation of Toyota for oil changes?
  • deg856deg856 Posts: 120
    Cliffy1's message 1526 asking Skimmel how long he's been driving took the exact same question out of my head. When I read Skimmel's message 1523 stating that "every 4 to 6 months seems frequent..." regarding oil change and asking if this oil change frequency was typical of only minivans, I actually wondered if Skimmel ever owned a car. Now, hold on, I'm not trying to be mean; that was what I really thought. On the Internet we can only form opinions of people based on the way he/she writes, and the questions he/she asks. When someone asks a question despite common knowledge without explaining why a question was asked that way, it is only natural for the readers to speculate on the reasons for the apparent lack of knowledge. I've known about the "3000 mi. or 3-month, whichever comes first" rule on oil change for all brands of vehicles ever since I started driving as a teenager in the early 80s. I learned that rule from word of mouth, and from reading car owner's manuals, auto magazines and newspaper articles on car maintenance, etc. The reasons for the 3000/3 rule has been so widely available and so well-known, I've taken it for granted that everyone else knew that too. It is hardly special knowledge. 2000 mi. in 4 months typically suggest that:

    a) The vehicle is used in short trips where it is seldom operated long enough for the oil temperature to reach normal level to burn off the water condensation in the oil;

    b) The engine goes through many cold starts where the engine experiences the most wear before oil pressure builds up.

    As far as the specific oil-change interval for your specific situation, read the owner's manual. Skimmel, you didn't even indicate what brand/model of car you have, so how do you expect anyone to know the reason that your vehicle's owner's manual recommends "oil should be changed at least every two years"? I'm guessing that you're driving a Soviet built nuclear-powered car that'll run forever without refueling, but it still needs an oil change every two years since the designer had not perfected the nuclear oil technology. Am I close?

    San Jose, CA


    Toyota has been stiffing thousands of consumers facing

    huge repair bills after sludge build-up led to engine failure

    in their relatively new Toyotas. The company has contended

    the problem is due solely to owner negligence and has

    refused to cover $5,000 engine replacements under warranty.

    Last week, while still claiming there's no design or quality

    problem, Toyota said that for the next year it will cover

    repairs for owners who can prove they changed the oil at

    least once a year.
  • alexv1nalexv1n Posts: 248
    While I don't have Toyota, I was trying to be in the loop for everything concerning minivans. And I was following the sludge problems for quite some time. While I'm not trying to judge if that's owner problem or design flaw, I have one question though. From what I've been reading, most (all?) owners with sludge either replaced oil themselves or have jiffy lube do the work. Do you know of at least several people who let the dealership change the oil and the engine still developed sludge? Just very curious.
  • jeproxjeprox Posts: 466
    my 1999 sienna calls for oil change every 6000kms while my brothers 2000 sienna calls for oil change every 8000kms. i honestly dont know why toyota did that with the same exact engine. as far as i know, they are the all the same from 1998 up to 2000. i think that if toyota lowers the mileage requirement for oil/filter change, not so many people would be having this sludge problem.

    i know of 7 cars ranging from camry to avalon to sienna to lexus with the v6 engine as well as 4cyl. engine and none have this sludge problem. all (except the 2000 sienna) have 5000km. oil/filter changes. 5 of these vehicles have over 120,000kms on them with no problems at all.

    so, my own opinion is that the sludge is probably caused partly by engine design and partly due to improper maintenance by vehicle owner
  • fguofguo Posts: 2
    I used to do engine flush on my 88 Camry every 2-3 years after 100k miles. It has 210k miles now and still running. I checked my newly bought used Sienna with 45K miles, as I opened the oil cap, there's thick carbon deposit there. The engine runs fine so far. Just wonder has anyone had the experience to run engine flush on Sienna, or the flush chemical will damage the seal or clog the passage on this V6?
  • "as I opened the oil cap, there's thick carbon deposit there"

    I'm still not clear what to be looking for. Does anyone have an exact description of what we're talking about?

    I bypassed the other minivans in favor of the 2001 Sienna primarily due to the history of Toyota's reliable design. The only reason I picked Toyota was because of their reputation. I've always heard that Toyotas require minimal maintenance. With that in mind, I anticipated not having to open the hood for much of anything as long as I had the car serviced on schedule. Also, knowing that warranties get really wierd when you don't have documentation to support your maintenance, I also committed to driving 3 hours to my nearest Toyota dealership to have the work done. That's not a problem. I can live with that until the warranty has expired..

    What I didn't expect to do was have to open the hood and check the oil cap every time I rememember to make sure that my engine wasn't damaged due to "you know who" or maybe "who knows what" since Toyota hasn't posted any solutions to the problem.

    Is that what we're supposed to be doing? Checking the oil cap? I just did that and am not real clear what to look for. It looks like the drain goes to the left and directly below the oil cap is a hard surface. I can't tell if the surface is really metal or if it's some type of other material. It looks like crusty oil or a charcoal residue on the metal surface. Is that normal? Does the drain go to the left? What would be directly below the cap? Is that just overflow of burnt oil or something or do I have sludge like the others have described?

    All 3 oil changes have been made at the dealership and currently have 16,000 miles. I have another due in a week. Driving conditions would be classified as mild.

    Any information would be great since I am completely clueless what to be looking for.
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    First, Toyotas are not known for requiring little maintenance. They are known for extreme reliability as long as maintenance is done. That is a major distinction.

    Next, with 16K miles and three oil changes, you have little chance of sludge, unless those oil changes went past the 4 or 6 moth interval. The crud you are looking at is sludge, but sludge in the area of the fill cap is normal. In order to find dangerous sludge, you really need to have the valve cover removed. Short of that, you may try sticking a small screw driver back under the valve cover and seeing if you can scrape anything out from under there. A dental pick works ever better.
  • jeproxjeprox Posts: 466
    no, it's not about checking your oil cap.

    the carbon deposit mentioned is in the oil filler neck. when you remove your oil cap, look straight down the hole and you may or may not see this black carbon deposit there. if your van is fairly new, you may not have any deposit at all.

    it is black and if you scrape it, it looks and feels like mashed up charcoal in water. some people call this sludge, some people call it carbon deposit. i just changed my oil over the weekend and i did see this deposit and scraped it and cleaned the oil filler neck area. from what i read/understand, this is normal in cars. i've also checked other cars yesterday and i do see the same stuff present. in order to know if you have sludge or not, only sure way to find out is to remove your valve cover or you'll know when you engine stop working! unless u see puff of blue smoke from your tailpipe and you are using up oil, then you're ok.

    since this whole sludge issue started, i monitor my oil level and look for blue puff of smoke when i start up the engine. i change my oil every 5000kms. i now have over 53,000kms on the van and it runs perfect.
  • jeproxjeprox Posts: 466
    i just have a question about this "pulling" problem with sienna's. mine used to be really bad, got rid of those dunlop tires and it's not as bad now. the van still pulls a tiny bit to the right or left. on freeways, it drives straight as an arrow!

    so my question is: are sienna's just sensitive to the "crown" on the road or is there something else?

    i've been to 3 dealers, 2 of them said there were complaints on sienna's about this pulling problem and the one dealer gave me the "crown" on the road story.

    thanks for any input
  • cliffy1cliffy1 Posts: 3,581
    You have no idea how happy I am to answer a question NOT related to sludge.

    I have an opinion on this but first, let me give a little history. There was a batch of early production Siennas that did have a defect in the suspension that made them impossible to align without major alterations. I could be mistaken, but I think every one one of those were fixed and many were bought back by Toyota a few years ago.

    Some of the people who experienced this problem posted on the Internet about their problems. This caused concern among other Sienna owners and gave them the idea to do something that they had never done before. They drove down a seemingly level road and let go of the wheel. That is when road crown caused a drift to one side or the other. Customers mistook this for an alignment issue and some mischaracterized it as "pulling" when drifting would have been more accurate. Combine that with people who had poor alignment anyway and the myth began about pulling Siennas.

    Poor alignment is not easy to detect. There are slip pads at some dealerships, but they are known to be a bit vague. The only way to really know is to look for uneven tread wear. Unfortunately, by the time the problem shows up, it is too late. The best solution is to have your car aligned once a year in the spring after the potholes are repaired.

    I've never seen that the Siennas are more susceptible to road crown than other cars. Drive the same stretch of road at the same speed in two different cars, under similar wind and weather conditions and the drift should be about the same. Certain tires may affect this a little, as may differences in power steering systems, but the affect will be negligible.
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